The shoemaker’s head bobbed to the rhythm of the horse that pulled the cart he sat upon. His most recent venture to the neighboring villages had been good, but exhausting. When he arrived he was greeted with open arms and warm hugs, but these were tempered with furtive glances and eyes that avoided his. More and more of the villagers were wearing Lucien’s shoes—even some of his oldest customers. He didn’t begrudge them their curiosity or the novelty; he simply hoped the shoes didn’t injure them.
Fortunately, many of his closest friends and customers were very devoted. They invited the shoemaker into their houses and together they ate and laughed and told stories. As the meal came to a close, the shoemaker would plop down on the floor and examine each of their feet. Many of his friends grew shy and embarrassed but he hushed their concerns. It was as if the smell or the bunions or the corns never bothered him. He simply took stock of the foot and would then choose the pair of shoes that best complimented the wearer.
For this reason, people were divided on their views of the shoemaker. Some people loved the way his warm hands felt on their achey soles, to others, the touch seemed far too intrusive. They much preferred to remain in control at Lucien’s store and choose whichever shoe felt right, even if they knew it would give them a blister later on.
Further setting these groups at odds was the matter of the strange happenings that seemed to follow in the shoemaker’s wake… He seemed to have a knack for being involved in unlikely coincidences.
Once, while walking down a path, the shoemaker came across a dull wedding ring. He dusted the ring off, pocketed it, and continued on his way. Later he came across a woman begging for food for her child. He apologized for not having any coins, but gave her the ring he found and wished her the best.
Shortly after, a distressed man approached the woman. He told her he had been walking up and down the path for three days looking for his lost wedding band. Shocked, and barely believing that it could possibly be the one this man was looking for, she showed him the ring that had been gifted to her. The man was so joyed to have found the ring that happily gave the woman a pouch of coins. It didn’t make the woman rich; but it was enough.
Stories about the situations he was involved in began to spread, but there was no telling at which point fact began to blur into hyperbole. To those that wore his shoes, these stories were funny and wonderful. To those that wore Lucien’s shoes and hadn’t encountered the shoemaker fact to face, they seemed like mass hysteria.
Whenever those that wore the shoemaker’s shoes came together, stories would inevitably get told. So much, in fact, that many began to believe that the shoemaker was some kind of magician… And they may not have been entirely wrong. Sometimes it seemed as though the world itself would bend just to be closer to the shoemaker.
So it was on the night that the Shoemaker rode his cart back towards his home. The moment the cart turned down his street, he caught the faint scent of the meadow flower in the air. The hair on his neck stood on end as a cold chill ran down his spine. Something was wrong.
Prodding his horse, he blazed down the street. The windows of his shop were dark. There was no smoke coming from the chimney. In all the years his daughter had been old enough to leave alone, she had never been absent when he returned.
The shoemaker turned the doorknob to his shop, and pushed. The door didn’t budge. Adrenaline surging through him, he lifted his leg and kicked the door with all his might. It pushed open just enough for him to get through. He struck a match and cried out at the sight before him.
His shop had been destroyed. Wood and leather scraps littered the floor. Much of his belongings had been shoved inside the furnace. His worktable had been pushed against the door. None of this concerned him, however. What left his heart in his stomach was the message scrawled in dark red sticky letters: